I am currently a master's student in the second semester of my first year. I have just returned to graduate school after taking several years off due to the pandemic. Last semester I had two classes that required book reviews. The book I picked met the criteria for both classes and at the time, I figured "work smarter, not harder" so I turned in the same review for both classes. I received good grades from both professors and nothing ever came up about it. Today, approximately 4 months later, my current professor mentioned how using the same work for two classes is considered self-plagiarism. The moment she said this my stomach dropped and after looking it up on the school's academic misconduct policy, I realized I had messed up big time. Now, I am at a loss about what to do. Do I come forward and admit my mistake? Do I vow never to repeat it and hope it doesn't come up? I consider myself a highly ethical person, I have never plagiarized in the past, and this topic never came up in my undergrad. Please give me some advice!
First and foremost, please stop panicking.
Second, you have no reason for questioning your ethics, because you were not aware of the rules.
There exist things that are obviously gross -- like forging lab results or plagiarising other people's work. Cheating on exams is not good either. All this is evident, and there is no need to explain to anyone how wrong these things are.
The use of the same work for two classes is less obvious a misdemeanor on the part of a student uninformed about the rules. In my opinion, what you have done was a mistake, and not an act of deliberate cheating.
So, whatever your decision, don't castigate yourself too harshly. Calm down, to begin with.
Nothing. If there are two assignments that are similar to the extent that the same text can satisfy both and that text is your own work, then all you need to do to get completely clear of any plagiarism accusations is to explicitly say in each text that it was also submitted to another class (plagiarism is using the ideas without proper reference, not just reusing them; if we weren't allowed to reuse the ideas (our own or somebody else's), the science would come to a screeching halt in no time) but even that is necessary only if somebody around you believes in "self-plagiarism", which, IMHO is an oxymoron. It is ridiculous to expect that you will come up with two completely disjoint in terms of ideas, conclusions, trains of thought, or even passages texts when writing two reviews for the same book. Most of the stuff would be the same or, at least, similar anyway. So, I see no ethical problem with submitting the same work for two classes if it can satisfy all requirements and if it is your own. The rule that you cannot do it can be put forth by the university for other reasons or "just because", but trying to base it on the plagiarism considerations or any ethical issues is an abuse of the notions of plagiarism and ethics as well as of the common sense IMHO.
So just relax for now and continue studying.
I mostly agree with Michael_1812's answer: This is relatively low on the scale of seriousness of academic misconduct, and you weren't aware of the rule, which mitigates somewhat. However, you are now aware of the rule.
While you have so far 'got away with it', it's entirely possible that it is discovered later on. If that were to occur, your excuse of not knowing the rule may not be believed. It's always better to own up to a mistake before someone else discovers it.
I would suggest you speak to a member of staff about this. If you have a 'personal tutor' or similar who is responsible for your welfare, they may be the best person to speak to. Otherwise, you may directly speak to the two instructors concerned. In my opinion, owning up to such an error would reflect extremely well on you.
Based on my personal experience, such an infraction would not be harshly punished, although you may be scored zero for either or both the assignments you submitted, and it is possible your university policy requires some formal reprimand. However, the consequences are likely to be worse if it is discovered rather than admitted to.
So far you have two kinds of answers here. Let me summarize. One sort of answer (that I agree with) is that you have no real ethical concern if you honestly didn't know it was a violation. It was technical, but not intentional, plagiarism.
The other sort of answer (that I also agree with) is that the ethical question being settled doesn't lessen your risk if someone learns of the "violation - not violation" and complains about it.
So, I suggest that you think about the risk and whether you should come forward (hat in hand) and explain to people what happened and vow to "sin (not sin)" no more. That requires something about your knowledge of the professors involved.
No one here can really help you balance that risk since we don't know either the people or the procedures. My best guess is that you are safe to ignore it, but I don't know.
In terms of your own feelings of self worth, I think you can relax. You made a mistake that didn't feel like a mistake when you made it. Life is life.